Catface, a story by the late sci-fi author Clifford.D.Simak , was previously published under the title of Mastodonia and is one of Simak's quirkier novels.
Told from the perspective of Asa Steel, the book focuses around a mysterious alien being called Catface who has lived in the local woods for several generations. Almost by accident (his dog Bowser comes home first with some fresh dinosaur bones then later wounded by a prehistoric spear) Asa begins to discover that Catface has mastery of space and time and is able to open "time tunnels" into the past. When ex-flame, Rila Elliot comes back into his life, Asa rapidly sees a money-making opportunity and together the pair set up a business that plans to send Safari trips back into the age of the Dinosaurs for a premium hunting experience! But their business plans are not without a few hitches and soon they have to incorporate members of the local community to help them make it all work. And that is just the start of their problems....
Starting off with a rather humorous approach in the early chapters, this is a novel that rapidly becomes more darker and serious once Asa and his partner go into operation! There are a lot of familiar themes here that Simak has used before, though they are handled very well, but it is true what critics say in that the story doesn't really go anywhere groundbreaking. The best bits are in the middle with the launch of the Safari expeditions and if you love Dinosaurs and were in awe with films like Jurrassic Park then you are probably going to find much in the ideas portrayed here to like! It is just a shame then that the ending is a tad flat and doesn't really seem to go anywhere.
As Simak novels go, this is a highly enjoyable romp but you almost feel as though the author might have gone into this a little half-hearted with no idea what direction he really wanted the story to go in. I actually quite like it and think it has some very positive and interesting concepts but that has a large part to do with me being an incredibly huge Simak fan!! I can see why some more critical might be disappointed with its lack of development!
If this is the first time you have encountered Simak, please do not be put off. This is the author ever-so-slightly off par and if this is what he can come up with in a half-hearted approach, then take time to consider what he can achieve when running at full steam!
Personally, I like it and find it a highly competent sci-fi novel that has not aged since the day of its release back in the late sixties!